October 28, 2019
Senate May Hold Vote to Override Budget Veto
Word spread quickly late Friday afternoon that formal notice had been given by the Chair of the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate to the Senate Minority Leader that HB966, the “Appropriations Act of 2019” (budget bill), may be considered by the Senate tonight (Monday, Oct. 28th). The comprehensive spending package proposed and passed by the Republican-led legislature was sent to the Governor in June. One day after receiving the proposal, Gov. Cooper vetoed the bill, sending it back to the House and Senate. In September, the House successfully overrode the Governor’s budget veto in a surprise vote. However, the Senate has been reluctant to take-up a vote on the veto, leaving many to speculate that Senate GOP leaders have been unsuccessful in securing the one DEM vote needed to override (or the two DEM absences/walks). Obviously, something has changed, as the announcement has gone out and the vote is now a real possibility. Unlike in the House, Senate rules require at least 24 hours’ notice to the Minority Leader that a vetoed bill may be considered, so no surprises. Notice of the vote has been given as possible, not as definite, and it can be postponed. If so, 24 hours’ notice must be given ahead of the rescheduled date. President Pro Tem of the Senate, Phil Berger, has been saying for weeks that the Senate plans to adjourn on October 31st, and he told the press on Friday that the adjournment plans for the Senate remain unchanged.
Medicaid Transformation Facing Another Delay?
On Wednesday, the NC House Health Committee heard from DHHS Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, and Deputy Secretary for Medicaid, Dave Richard, regarding the status of Medicaid transformation. 1.6 million Medicaid recipients within the state will be moving from fee-for-service to “managed care,” which is a new system with new management and a new payment model. Cohen and Richard told committee members that the current budget impasse has already caused one delay in the implementation process. Phase one of the rollout was to begin on November 1st, but that has been delayed. All regions are now scheduled to rollout on February 1st instead. Committee members and stakeholders referenced the budget stalemate a number of times, and it was suggested by several that another delay was in order. However, Sec. Cohen expressed concerns over another delay, citing a potential loss of staff and vendors (talent). She went on to say that in order for transformation to begin on Feb. 1st, a budget (or mini-budget package specific to Medicaid transformation) would need to be passed by Nov.15th. Some of the transformation challenges Cohen and Richard shared with committee members included slow sign-ups by providers with the five managed care plans, issues with the enrollment broker MAXIMUS’ website, complexity of the contracts with the MCOs, and the on-boarding process to new systems. However, Cohen said the greatest concern by far is the uncertainly of the budget – DHHS funding is a top priority.
2020 Congressional Districts
During a hearing on Thursday, a three-judge panel heard arguments regarding a request for the new NC congressional map to be redrawn for next year’s elections. The request for consideration and subsequent hearing came before a trial had even been held on whether or not district lines were drawn by Republicans with extreme partisan intent to favor the GOP. The legal motion was filed by Democratic and independent voters who sued to overturn the map drawn in 2016. Attorneys for the group say partisan gerrymandering is evident. Republican legislators and their lawyers argue that ordering a redraw of the map would create electoral disorder for races with a December filing period and March 2020 primary. In September, the same three-judge panel ruled on a similar case involving NC House and Senate legislative districts. The GOP-led legislature was order to make changes to dozens of state legislative districts. Wake Co. Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway didn’t say when to expect a ruling, only that it would be soon.
From the “You Can’t Make This Up” File
Madison Co. (NC) Public Library Interim Director, Peggy Goforth, knew the county library needed a new policy governing service animals when a man walked into the Marshall branch carrying a bag of snakes. After approaching the card-carrying library patron, Goforth asked him about the bag. "He said, 'My pets are harmless. Here, let me show you.' And he poured them all out on the front desk. They just wriggled everywhere." Goforth, a Big Pine native who has worked with the Madison County Library for more than 20 years, was stunned. "He probably had a dozen snakes in that bag. They were all different kinds. He had pythons and boas and he was just very proud of his snakes. We treated him with respect, but at the same time, we couldn't have the snake -- particularly a bag of snakes -- in the library," she said. "I told him, 'We realize you love your pets, but we don't allow pets in the library.' He was really nice about it. He just bagged up all the snakes and left." The story of the bag of snakes from last winter is just one Goforth has of patrons bringing animals into the library. In just the past year or so, she's seen a monkey, a rat, spiders, an iguana, a ferret, parrots, chicken, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, dogs, cats and more. The pet problem has grown so out of control that Goforth appeared before the Madison County Board of Commissioners Oct. 8 to advocate for a new policy that limits animals in the library to service dogs. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new policy that follows guidelines outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Paul Moon, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 10/20/19)
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